19th Century Americans Loved Wine and Liquor, But Their Favorite Alcoholic Beverage Was Beer
I just bought a copy of The Liquor Problem in All Ages by Daniel Dorchester (1884). It’s a fascinating look at the history of alcohol. About half of the book covers the efforts to curb or eliminate alcohol consumption. The other half is an engaging history of the manufacture and use of alcohol throughout history across different cultures from all over the world.
One very interesting chart shows which alcoholic beverages Americans were consuming decade by decade from 1792 – 1882 and it is reproduced below (click to enlarge):
As the U.S. population grew and the 1800’s progressed, we see a steady rise in the consumption of American distilled spirits.
American wine, foreign wine and foreign distilled spirits consumption are proportionately increased to some degree from 1792 – 1882.
The rise of malt liquor (in this context the book is referring to beer) consumption explodes in the 1850s nearly matching American spirit consumption. From 1860-1870 beer doubled its popularity from the previous decade. From 1870-1882 beer consumption had reached over 4 billion gallons, more than four times all other alcohol types combined. Continue reading